Unions Right to Data Part 2

What Information You Can Request and When to Request It
Documents- The union is entitled to examine a wide variety of records to investigate a grievance or to prepare for bargaining. Examples include: accident reports, air quality studies, attendance records, bargaining agreements for other units or facilities, bargaining notes, bonus records, contracts with customers, suppliers and contractors, correspondence, customer lists, disciplinary records, employer manuals, guidelines and policies, evaluations, interview notes, investigative reports, job descriptions, memos, schedules, time cards, videotapes, wage and salary records.

Data- Employers must provide the union with lists, statistics, and other relevant data even if management must spend hours or longer putting it together. You can request data on prior disciplinary actions, promotional patterns, and overtime assignments. Employers are not excused from producing relevant data because of the size of the unions request, although the employer can bargain on reimbursement for its costs. Requests for data going back five years have been enforced by the NLRB.

Facts- Employers must answer pertinent factual inquiries. For a misconduct case, ask for the names and addresses of witnesses and descriptions of their testimony. For an arbitration hearing, ask for the names of persons the employer intends to call to the stand.

Disciplinary grievance- When grieving disciplinary action, always request a copy of the grievants personnel file. If unequal punishment is an argument in the case, ask for the names of other employees who have committed the same offense and the penalties imposed.

Contract interpretation grievance- When a grievance concerns disputed contract language, request the employers bargaining notes from the session during which the clause was negotiated, the dates and contents of any union statements upon which the employer is relying, and descriptions of any incident which the employer says supports its position.

Tips to remember:

  • When the union makes an information request, it should be done in writing for the record. Every request can be used as evidence. That’s why you want to put your request in writing in case you need evidence.
  • The union may request information before filing a grievance. You are under no obligation to reveal the nature of the grievance. This is part of your right to make sure the contract is being enforced. Remember, though, the union must have some suspicion of a grievance. “Fishing for information” is a violation of the union’s obligation to bargain in good faith.
  • Name a deadline. If you don’t get a response by the deadline, contact the person you requested immediately to see what the difficulty is.
  • Multiple information requests concerning a single grievance are allowed at any stage in the grievance process.
  • If it is necessary to your argument, the union may request information on non-bargaining unit employees.
  • Certain information is confidential: employee medical records, test scores, or trade secrets, for example. Agreeing to allow the company to withhold some information (such as confidential medical records) or providing written assurance of confidentiality (for sensitive company information) may allow the union at least partial access.
  • An employer must produce information requested in a manner that allows for “due process” and within the time limits specified for each step of the grievance procedure under the contract. If the employer claims more time is needed, then an agreement must be reached for extending the grievance time limits.
  • The employer does not have to produce information in the precise form requested by the union. However, if the information does exist in the form requested, it must be produced.
  • The employer must pay for supplying the requested information, unless it can show that “substantial costs” are involved. In this case, the union and employer must bargain over sharing the costs. If costs are a problem, the union can request direct access to the data.

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